The University of Michigan Central Student Government met virtually Tuesday night to discuss the confirmation of the Student Organization Funding Committee chair and the spring and summer term budget. Tuesday’s meeting was the last of winter semester.
Business senior Crede Strauser, outgoing chair of SOFC, and LSA junior Taylor Lansey, previous CSG treasurer, raised concerns last week about the nominee for SOFC chair, LSA junior Elizabeth Heald. The Student Assembly debated her appointment at Tuesday’s meeting.
SOFC is in charge of distributing money to student organizations across campus and gives out approximately $600,000 per year.
LSA sophomore Sam Burnstein, Executive Nominations Committee chair, presented the committee’s report on Heald’s appointment. Burnstein said the committee took a neutral stance and would allow the Assembly to further debate the matter, though members of the committee had concerns following Heald’s interview over her ability to step into the role with no prior SOFC experience.
“We understand the importance of the SOFC chair position and its uniqueness from other positions in really needing that insider experience in SOFC,” Burnstein said. “All five of us want nothing but the absolute best person in the job, which is why we’re offering this neutral recommendation so that the Assembly as a whole has an opportunity to ask more questions and really get an understanding of whether Ms. Heald is the right person for the job.”
Two Assembly members on the Executive Nominations Committee, Public Policy junior Damian Chessare and Engineering sophomore Shub Argha, noted their displeasure with the committee’s decision, arguing they felt Heald holds the necessary qualifications for the role.
Members of the Assembly questioned Heald about her qualifications and understanding of the role during a discussion period.
Heald said her experience as president of OptiMize, a student-led organization that provides funding and guidance for student projects working to make a positive impact, would help her lead SOFC.
“(OptiMize has) a very similar process (to SOFC),” Heald said. “Sitting down we have a funding committee going through our different values … and choosing a diverse cohort of teams.”
After questioning, Business junior Richa Shah, former vice chair of SOFC and newly appointed CSG treasurer, raised concerns about what she viewed as a lack of knowledge surrounding basic SOFC procedures from Heald.
“In my understanding and my experience as a SOFC vice chair, secretary and committee member, I did not think that she had the correct qualifications or experiences, in my opinion, to serve as the head chair of SOFC,” Shah said.
Business sophomore Matthew Jaysen, vice chair of the Student Organizations Committee, said Heald’s experience leading OptiMize, a role he compared to SOFC chair, qualified her for the role and her lack of CSG experience would not affect her ability to lead the organization.
“The real question is, do you need SOFC experience to be the head of SOFC?” Jaysen said. “And from an Assembly that is approximately 70 percent new people, I think we are proving in the work that we’ve been getting done (is) that you don’t need CSG experience to be a great member of CSG. You need to be a good person within the Michigan community.”
The Assembly confirmed Heald as SOFC chair for the Fall 2020 term with 14 votes in favor and 12 against.
After approving Heald, the Assembly approved a schedule and criteria for SOFC to operate over the summer, as well as an application for members, meaning the committee can award money to student groups during the spring and summer.
The Assembly also passed a budget for the spring and summer CSG terms, funding for graduate school test prep courses over the summer and a financial need fund encouraging socioeconomically disadvantaged students to participate in CSG.
Summer News Editor Julia Rubin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.